DiscoverScience Fiction

2120

By

Worth reading 😎

An interplanetary exploration between 2021 and present COVID-era: A cautionary tale on change without regard to human experience

Synopsis

Americans today face a toxic mix of COVID-19, a polarized political environment, a sometimes-violent racial upheaval, and climate-change-induced natural disasters. And when you add severe constraints to man’s natural urges for exploring new lands and experiences, not to mention flights of fantasy into the future, we are truly in a downward inflection point of US history.

2120 takes on all of America’s enormous challenges with aplomb and offers a cohesive vision of the future that addresses the underlying causes of mega-issues ranging from human hubris towards our environment to parochial interests driving US politics. 2120 makes the flights of fantasy into the future seem all too real, as the audience vicariously lives the future through vibrantly developed and thoroughly believable characters who humanize experiences despite owing their origins to other galaxies.

Strap on your intellectual seat belts and plan for a binge read through “2120” as it prepares for the 2020 election season and humanity’s challenges in the upcoming decade.

The author takes readers on an interplanetary journey to 2021 in which they look back on the present COVID Crisis. The book explores another time-dimension in which past and present are interwoven.  

At the onset, the characters, their occupations, and interests are relatable: Medical Research, Software Development, and young adults exploring their digital dependencies with gaming, virtual experiences, and the ability to connect meaningfully.

However, as the book begins to document the history of the present, it seems detached in many ways and even chalked up to one which the future disregards the past when one remarks, 'You can't take it too seriously; It was a hundred years ago.' At first, it seemed to lack any feeling or depth associated with the significance of the crisis from a humanitarian perspective. It focused on parsed data points such as the emergence of flying cars, a reduction in Earth's population - the net effect being carbon reduction, and a profound statement about the fragmented and polarized American politics on the global stage. The author describes the changes that resulted from the crisis as those that were 'made out of necessity and not from the heart'. 


As lineages are separated by planets and groups such as Shadows appear as enemies to humans, and aliens are also present, it moves beyond the modern era relations.


Later in the novel, the sentiment seems to change from a stark data point account of history to one that begins to explore identity as something formed with time and place. There is an increasing sense that the events may have more significant undercurrents than previously described. The COVID crisis is described as 'an equal opportunity destroyer of race, religion, political, and country' suggesting there may have been more profound experiences in the narrative not represented. It's at this point, as a reader, one begins to suspect all the aspects of the experiences that led to the futuristic state that is not reflected on or understood by some of the characters. 


One can draw connections between marginalization through the Black Lives Matter references from the COVID-era crisis and the exposure of the exile of the Shadows, a group of Aliens targeted, injected with chemical infusions, and then fought against humans. A perpetuation of crimes against specific populations. Despite the advancements in interplanetary travel, it does not seem civilization has achieved progress, likely due to the disregard from lessons of the past.  


The latter part of the book expresses an even greater sense of political disenfranchisement that reads a bit like an emotional rant. It is not revealed until the end that the author's identity is rooted in an Indian spiritual context and how alienated he felt from the American political landscape. But, its importance should not be underscored in gaining an understanding of how these kinds of suppressed voices contribute to shaping a better future. Otherwise, as the author describes in the year 2021, the present-day problems leading up to the crisis will manifest themselves in another form, context, and set in the future. 


Reviewed by

Author. Award-Winning Digital Curator and Social Entrepreneur. Obsessed with the intersection of innovation, arts, and culture. Relentless learner Always exploring - nearby trails or global treks. Grateful for my pup's constant prodding - forces me away from the computer screen.

Synopsis

Americans today face a toxic mix of COVID-19, a polarized political environment, a sometimes-violent racial upheaval, and climate-change-induced natural disasters. And when you add severe constraints to man’s natural urges for exploring new lands and experiences, not to mention flights of fantasy into the future, we are truly in a downward inflection point of US history.

2120 takes on all of America’s enormous challenges with aplomb and offers a cohesive vision of the future that addresses the underlying causes of mega-issues ranging from human hubris towards our environment to parochial interests driving US politics. 2120 makes the flights of fantasy into the future seem all too real, as the audience vicariously lives the future through vibrantly developed and thoroughly believable characters who humanize experiences despite owing their origins to other galaxies.

Strap on your intellectual seat belts and plan for a binge read through “2120” as it prepares for the 2020 election season and humanity’s challenges in the upcoming decade.

He closed his eyes momentarily as the cool breeze caressed his sweaty face. The beating sun shone on his dark, glistening skin. He picked up his jogging speed from a lazy trot to a slow sprint. It was a warm morning. He was jogging along a windy concrete path that snaked through a quiet neighborhood of single-story family homes. They were set back in front of a green lawn with haphazardly growing grass. The neighborhood looked occupied with residents with middle to lower-middle class income. Some porches sported Confederate flags that fluttered lazily. Some lawns had playthings strewn over them like tricycles, sandboxes, a tiny plastic swimming pool for children, and various other things. Many of the houses had pickup trucks in their driveways. Almost all of them had a gun-rack to hold rifles.

He gulped nervously, feeling unwelcome in this neighborhood. However, he was determined to take care of his body. Besides, he didn’t have any other choice. This was the only path in the town that had an interminable stretch of concrete. The roads where he lived were not so well-paved. They would be injurious to his lower back. He gritted his teeth and kept on jogging.

A white pickup was parked at an angle ahead, blocking his straight run. He looked behind before crossing the road. There was another white pickup following him, but he gauged its speed to be very slow. He noticed a stockily built driver behind the wheels and one more standing on the flatbed. This was a very common scene as it was a county where hunting was very common. One would often see the flatbed of the truck occupied by somebody. It would be far more convenient for him to spot a prey when they were out hunting. They must have come back from a hunt, he concluded. 

He jogged on the grass to make way for the pickup to pass him. However, it didn’t. He looked behind, expecting the truck to be near him. He was alarmed to see that the truck had kept its distance, trailing him. He stopped, and the pickup kept approaching him at a slow pace. It neared him.

He jerked his head to focus on the other truck that was parked at an angle. His eyes widened as he saw a silhouette of a large figure behind the wheels. They had trapped him between the two trucks. That’s when he realized what was going on. He was being hunted. The truck now was very near him. He could see the driver of the vehicle now. He was a stockily built white man with a round face and beady eyes that were puffed below because of age and alcoholism. His round face was unshaven for a few days with white stubble that made him look older. The man in the flatbed, a young replica of him, was wearing a dirty tee shirt and a cap.

“Howdy,” the man behind the wheels said.

“Hi,” the jogger reciprocated.

“Where are you headed?”

“Nowhere in particular. Just out for a jog,” the jogger replied, looking nervously at both of them, his eyes darting from one man to the other. He looked behind. The driver of the other truck had gotten out and was now standing with his arms akimbo, staring in their direction. The jogger turned around but was startled to see the man had gotten out of the pickup and was approaching him. Silhouettes had now appeared in few windows of the houses. The jogger panicked now, his heart thumping faster in his chest. More sweat pouring out, but this time out of fear. He peered over the shoulder of the approaching man to focus on the younger man in the flatbed, and his eyes widened. The younger man was pointing a rifle in his direction with his finger on the trigger.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the jogger raised his hands in the air, “take it easy, man. Look, I’m just out for a jog, minding my business, not bothering anybody.”

“That’s not what we saw on the cc footage,” the older man grunted. “You seemed to snoop around.”   

“Nah, man,” the jogger shook his head vigorously.

“What were you looking for? What did you want?” the man raised his voice. “Your kind is not welcome in our neighborhood,” he sneered.

“Okay, okay,” the jogger said, “I get it. I’m going and will never jog here.” He turned around and began to jog. But the man from the other truck was heading back towards his vehicle, as if to get something. Soon, he came back holding a rifle.

Oh, no, the jogger panicked, coming to a halt. Suddenly, he heard a loud bang from behind. The younger man had fired a shot.

*-*-*



“Terry,” he heard a woman’s voice. It was coming from below.

Terry quickly took off his helmet and flung it across the room. He was drenched with sweat and was panting heavily. He looked at the helmet in fear. It all seemed so real to him, although it had happened a century ago. The helmet was a brilliant way to immerse himself in any prior events—right till 2120—history, sports, music-concerts, education, and many more. Life and lifestyle had changed after the 2020 pandemic. It was now considered the worst event in the human history as it impacted almost everyone. This tragedy overshadowed every catastrophic event in the past, both, natural or manmade as they only impacted a specific area of the globe. Whereas, this had a devastating impact on every corner of the world. The spread of the virus knew no physical boundaries, classes or ethnicities. 

“Terry,” the woman shouted again. “Come down for dinner and get your brother. We are all waiting for you.”

Terry looked at the helmet. It was dark blue with a black and shiny visor in front. Terry had decorated its sides with stickers. A small red light flickered intermittently on one side.

It needs to be recharged, he thought as he reached for it and placed it on a cradle on the desk that lay next to his bed. The red light started to blink, indicating that it was being charged. Terry raised his hand and looked at his wristwatch. He tapped on the circular dial. It came alive, showing the symbol of a battery cell that was half-filled. Next to it was a number showing how long until the full charge. Hmm, 30, he observed. The time I finish my dinner should be enough to fully charge it. His wrist vibrated. He looked at his watch again to see who was calling. It said Sandra. His face brightened.

“Hey,” he spoke to the watch, trying to sound very casual. Although, his heart was pumping with excitement.

“Hey,” a soft and melodic voice emanated from the watch. “Are you coming tonight?”

“You bet,” he replied, sounding confidant, although he was not sure as he had not taken his parents’ permission yet. He would ask them over dinner. He was looking forward to virtually attend the music concert. “I’ll see you there tonight.”

“Okay,” Sandra said as she hung up, and Terry’s dial went dark.

He looked at himself in the mirror. He was a good-looking youthful man with short hair, black eyes and a chocolate-brown face. He brought his face close to the mirror and looked closely above his lips. He gently caressed his barely seen hair that was sprouting. He moved his eyes to the top of his head and subconsciously moved his fingers through his hair. He looked into his eyes with a satisfied smile. He looked around his room. It was a typical teenager’s room with a desk and a laptop on it with a poster of his favorite rock-band above it, an unmade bed on one side, a small nightstand next to it and a closet on the opposite wall.

“Oink, oink,” a faint noise startled him. He looked around to find the source. It was coming from the direction of his desk. He looked at his laptop. Its screen lay dormant. Confused, he took a step towards the desk. His eyes widened as he looked up. The poster was morphing from his favorite rock-band to a cartoonish pig that was smiling. “Oink, oink,” it smiled again as it winked.

“Bruce,” Terry yelled as he banged on the wall. “Stop it. It’s not funny.” He could hear a muffled laughter from other side of the wall. “Mom,” he shouted, “Bruce is bothering me.”

“Stop it, you two,” his mother shouted, “and come down for dinner.”

Bruce was Terry’s older brother. Terry was fifteen and Bruce was eighteen. They lived with their parents in a two-storied house south of Los Angeles, in Orange County. Their father had his own business, a software startup, and their mother was a doctor.

“Coming,” he yelled as he hurried out of his room. On his way downstairs, he passed Bruce’s room. The door was closed.

“Let’s go,” he banged.

“Okay, okay,” an annoyed Bruce replied from the other side. Terry banged again, “hurry.” He was enjoying tormenting his brother. Just when he was about to bang again, the door swung open and Bruce appeared.

“Stop it, will you?” he sounded annoyed.

“No, you stop it,” Terry barked back. “You have no right to intrude in my space.”

Bruce smiled smugly. “What did I do?” looking innocently. This angered Terry even more.

“Don’t act,” he shouted. “I will change the access level of all my devices. I’ll remove you and only allow mom and dad.”

Bruce looked at him defiantly, “go head. Do that. You know what that means, right?”

“What?”

“We can’t share any games.”

“Oh,” Terry said, glumly. He knew that Bruce was right. If he removed his brother’s access, they no longer could share anything—movies, apps, games, or anything else. His eyes softened a little. Bruce knew that he had won. He knew how much Terry loved games. They had always shared games. If Terry wanted to have a recent game, he would first check with Bruce to see if he had it. If he didn’t and Terry’s monthly quota of buying a recent video game was over, he would beg Bruce to buy it. If Bruce had not filled his monthly quota, and he liked the game, he would buy it. But he would make sure that he constantly reminded his younger brother that he had done him a favor. His parents set the monthly quota. It was a form of an allowance that parents gave their children. However, it was no longer called that. An allowance didn’t exactly work as a monthly quota. An allowance was just a dollar amount given on a weekly basis without the children being accountable for how and where they spent it. Monthly quota, on the other hand, was more granular. Kids were assigned a monthly quota for various things such as video games, concert tickets, and so on. Their parents had given them a quota of half a video game per month. They could add to their quota based on household chores performed or learning assignments.

Ever since the last outbreak, the education system had changed. Schools had ceased to exist as they had previously existed, rather, they had morphed into a learning experience. They only physically existed for practicals. Virtual sessions conducted all the theories. Both, Terry and Bruce, attended virtual classes. They had been assigned a time of day to learn, to play, to socialize, and so on.

“We are waiting,” they heard their mother yell, and they hurried.

*-*-*




As they climbed down, a whiff of warm bread tingled their nostrils. Their stomach growled with hunger. Three people were patiently waiting for them, talking among themselves while enjoying a glass of merlot. Two of them—who were Terry’s parents, were in their early forties. The third man looked much older.

“Hi, mom. Hi dad,” Terry said as he kissed his mom on the cheek, “Hi grandpa,” he nodded to the third man. His name was Matthew.

“Hi,” Matthew grunted. He was an eighty-years-old man who insisted on punctuality. He was a little annoyed that he had to wait, although, Terry being his favorite, he tolerated his tardiness. Everyone knew that he would be less forgiving with the other three.

“Looks good,” Bruce exclaimed, hungrily eyeing the food in front of him.

“Thanks.” Dr. Nicole Lloyd smiled. She was a good-looking woman in her fifties. She had an oval and long face with high cheekbones and penetrating eyes that sparkled with intelligence. A scrunchie tightly held her dark-brown hair. She wore a blue tee-shirt and grey cotton pants. Although she was a medical doctor, her specialty was research. She was a highly respected scientist in her field, which was infectious diseases. After graduating as a medical doctor, she had taken up a job in a lab. She always wanted to do something that would balance her professional life and her family life. She quickly realized that hospitals were not for her. Also, she had to choose between her career and her family. Back then, they were just two of them, she and her husband, soon to be three. She was pregnant. That made the burden to choose a little easier. Her husband, Frank Carter, was a software engineer who was hired right out of college. Frank had eventually resigned from his job and started his own company. She had met him in the college and immediately fell for his good looks and intelligence. His unawareness of his good looks attracted her to him. There were many students that were tall, muscular and good looking. But most of them were vain and self-absorbed. They all worked hard to look casually good. But not Frank. He was naturally blessed with his excellent looks and an athletic body. They began to date in their last year of college, and after graduating, lived together. At first, Nicole’s mother was not happy at all with their living arrangements, but changed her mind when Frank proposed. Soon after they got married, Bruce was born and then Terry.

Frank’s father, Matthew, was not happy when Nicole had kept her maiden name.

“But dad, things were different in your time,” Frank would say, “agreed that most of the women changed their last names to take their husband’s last name, but there were also some who didn’t.”

“Hmpf,” Matthew would grunt, “it has nothing to do with retaining their last name.”

“What then?”

“Family name, how else will you advance your family name?”

“C’mon, dad! This is 2100s. Times have changed. A woman’s identity is defined by her name, and not her husband’s name.” 

They named Terry after his great-great-grandfather, who was an astronaut at NASA. He was on the last mission to explore space. The mission was a failure as it was aborted before it took off…or…at least that was what the others thought. What they didn’t know was that he, along with two other astronauts, Don and Kim, had traveled to another galaxy and back to the future-Earth before they came back to their time. To others, it was just a minute, but to Terry and his fellow astronauts, it was much longer than that. After that, NASA had gone in a different direction to explore space. They had focused their resources on colonizing Mars, albeit successfully thus far, apart from capturing thousands of high-resolution images of its surface.

Both, Bruce and Terry, sat on the two empty chairs, and filled their plates. After saying Grace, they ate in silence for a while.

“Kim called,” Nicole broke the silence.

“Yeah?” Frank raised his eyebrow as he took a sip. “What did she want?”

“Nothing. Just checking on Matthew.”

“Me?” Matthew looked up, “what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” she smiled, “you are in perfect health. And you are the strongest man I know for an eighty-year-old.”

 Matthew beamed a satisfied smile.

“She was planning to visit us this weekend,” Nicole continued.

“Really?” Frank looked surprised. “Alone?”

“Yes.”

“Is it safe for her to travel at her age?”

Kim was the daughter of Matthew’s older brother, who had recently died.  

“Sure,” Nicole replied. “She’s fit as a horse. Besides, she has taken all the latest vaccinations.”

“Make sure she wears a mask.”

“That goes without saying.”

It had been almost one-hundred years since the first outbreak of a deadly virus. It had spread like wildfire throughout the world, bringing it to a complete standstill for months. After a couple of years, the scientists had come up with a vaccine, but not before millions had perished. Until they found a cure, all the governments throughout the world had recommended that its citizens wear a mask outdoor. Soon, it had become an accessory, just like wearing a watch or a bracelet. Life had changed since then. There was a clear demarcation of life before 2020 and after. Every aspect—from a simple task of going for a walk to traveling to a faraway land—was affected.

“How will she be traveling?”

“Her car,” Nicole replied, “she’ll be flying in from her house in Las Vegas.”

Frank still looked concerned.

“Don’t worry,” she assured him, “it’s perfectly safe. She’ll be here in under ten minutes. And besides, the only time she’ll be stepping outside is when she gets into her car in her driveway and when her car lands in ours.”

“Oh well,” he sighed, a look of sadness engulfing his face, “if only the administration then had taken some more precautions. We all would not be suffering a hundred years later. They all are dead and gone but look at what they have left us. Don’t you agree, dad?”

“Huh?” Matthew looked up, oblivious to the conversation, “what?”

“I was telling Nicole that our life has really changed because of what happened a hundred years ago. Why don’t you tell how it was like back then?”

“Yes, grandpa,” Terry nodded eagerly. He had always wanted to know how life would have been, particularly for a black man. The horrendous experience earlier in his room had shaken him up. Although it was just a projection of the past events, he felt as if it was happening to him.



“Well,” Matthew hesitated, sounding unsure.

“Please, grandpa.”

He looked around the table at the eager faces. Both, Bruce’s and Terry’s expressions were filled with eager anticipation. Frank too had an eager expression. However, he was keener for his father to impart his experiences to his children—the next generation. Nicole was naturally curious, as she was in a field where curiosity solved many problems.

Okay, he decided silently. “What do you want to know? Where do you want me to begin?”

“How about when you were young?” Terry blurted, “what is your first memory?”

“Let me see,” Matthew absentmindedly forked his fingers through his salt and pepper hair as he jogged his memory. “Gee, I don’ know how old I was. I remember my first grade, but that is of no interest. I was not even old enough to understand what was happening around me., nor was I old enough to realize that I was black.

“But I remember that my mother always covered my face with a mask whenever we went out. I remember playing with my brother. I remember my parents. My dad used to tell me stories when he was young. He had lots to tell as he had witnesses lived through both, before 2020 and after.

“Since I was born after 2020, I never realized how life was before. I always thought that all the sports were played in an empty stadium. I always thought concerts were attended virtually.”

“Oh, yeah!” Terry exclaimed as he remembered something. He turned to his mother, “concerts.”

“What about them?” Nicole looked confused.

“Can I go to a concert tonight?” he asked.

“What?” Nicole was taken aback. “Tonight? With whom?”

“Sandra,” he whispered.

“Sandra!” Bruce smiled, “Oh là là!”

“Shut up,” Terry looked angrily at his brother.

“Terry and Sandra, under a tree,” he laughed, “k. i. s. s. i. n. g.”

“Oh, so lame!” he rolled his eyes, “is that something you picked up recently?”

Bruce punched him lightly on his arm.

“MOM,” Terry yelled.

“Bruce,” Nicole chided mildly, suppressing her smile, “stop it.” She then turned to Terry, “who all are going?”

“I don’t know,” he lied, not wanting further teasing. “She invited me, and I said I’ll ask you. So, I’m asking you. Can I go?”

Nicole looked at Frank and raised her eyebrows.

“Please?” Terry begged.

Frank nodded slightly.

“Okay,” Nicole said, as she tapped on her wristwatch to authorize a purchase. She looked at the dial as it processed the transaction. It blinked with a large green check mark. She then tapped it to transmit the tickets to Terry’s watch. “Got it?” she asked. Terry turned her wrist to check. Just then his dial chimed as it lit up. “Yes,” he nodded.

“Ah, technology,” Matthew smiled, “what a wonderful thing. I remember how things were different when I was a youthful man. Sure, we had the mobile phones and several wearable devices. But the software is more advanced now. It probably has to do with social habits.”

“What do you mean?” Bruce asked.

“I remember when I was growing up, I used to use my mobile phone for everything—from purchasing a ticket to snapping a photo and posting it on social media. On the other hand, my father was used to using his computer. I always thought he was an old-timer who was used to doing things a certain way. And now I think I’m one—an old-timer, when I look at you. Your generation seems to do everything on a wristwatch.”

“Yes, everything,” Nicole laughed sarcastically, “other than looking at the time so they can be on time.”

“Yeah,” Frank laughed.

“What time is the concert?” Nicole asked.

“At eight o’clock.”

“And how long will it last?”

“Two hours.”

“Hey, Grandpa,” Terry turned to Matthew, “how was it in your time? I mean, did you have to be physically there?”

“Of course,” he nodded. “How else can one really experience it?”

“Well,” Frank said, “It’s much safer and more convenient to attend from your room. All you have to do is wear your helmet, and you are whisked to the arena. You don’t have to drive there, don’t have to find parking, don’t have to ever worry about standing in lines for peeing or to buy a snack or a drink. I’m never worried about my kids drinking or doing drugs. There are many more advantages to attend it virtually. Even all the sporting events are now attended virtually. They can play a game in one end of the country and I can attend it from the other side, right from the comfort of my room.”

Thank God they don’t have to be physically there, she sighed in relief.

“It’s not the same,” Matthew argued, “I agree that attending an event virtually has its own advantages. But one doesn’t realize the economic impact it has on livelihood of thousands of ancillary workers. Sure, you only think about the main performer or a sportsman, but what about the other support-staff? They are out of a job now. They too have to make a living, right?”

“Right,” Frank nodded, “I guess that is the major reason that the tickets are more expensive now—to offset the additional expenses they have to pay.”

“It’s not just that. One never thinks of the economic impact it can have on other industries. For example, if people don’t buy food, the farms that supply them have one less customer. So, they produce less, and they need fewer laborers and so on…,” he trailed off. “And this is just the economic side I’m talking about. It also has a social impact. I still remember my dad taking me to a ballgame. The fragrance of freshly cut grass, the buzz in the stadium. The aroma of fresh popcorn. My dad and I enjoying the warmth of afternoon sun. The seventh inning stretch. Those are my most precious memories with my dad. We bonded over a game of baseball. No helmet can substitute that experience. Actually, if you think about it, it’s an invention to make one a social recluse.”

“It’s not all that bad the way you make it sound, dad! It has its own advantages. If one cannot perform certain tasks physically, they still can do it virtually. Take your baseball experience as an example. Will you ever be able to attend a baseball game at your age? Even if you physically can, you will have a mental block of fighting your way through the traffic—for those who still prefer the road, the crowds, and many such things. You can easily avoid all those hurdles virtually.”



“Hmm,” Matthew nodded, still not fully convinced.

“We all have one. I have one, and so does Nicole. I use it to virtually travel to faraway places. For example, I know I could never climb the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, however, I can go there virtually. All I have to do is wear the helmet and I’m there.”

“What would I need it for?” Matthew gave a hollow laugh. “I’m perfectly happy where I am at in my life. I have no desire to travel to faraway places.”

“Well,” Frank said, “you don’t have to travel. I know that you like history. How about traveling back in time to experience the life of a black man, say, one hundred years ago?”

“That’s right, grandpa,” Terry interjected, “I experienced an incident that happened one hundred years ago. Man, it was so real. I felt as if it was happening to me.” He shuddered.

“Why? What happened? What did you experience?”

Terry proceeded to narrate his experience. As he progressed, Mathews eyes got wider and has expression got glum. However, Nicole looked skeptical. When Matthew’s eyes fell on her, he was wondering what was going through her mind. He had heard this unfortunate incident narrated by his father. He had experienced the anger in his father’s voice. However, Nicole had only read about it. This made her a little detached from the experience as the written words didn’t portray the raw emotions of someone who would narrate it. When Terry finally stopped, Matthew peered into her eyes, searching for an emotional outrage. Finding none, it disappointed him.

“You don’t believe him, huh?”

“It’s not that,” Nicole replied, “of course, I believe him.”

“Then what?” Matthew grunted sarcastically, “you seem to have taken it well.”

“Well, he has just experienced one side. I’d want him to experience the other side. Only then can he understand and decide fairly.”

“My helmet doesn’t have the latest version to do that,” Terry said. “I first need to upgrade it and then get the other experience app. Can I buy it?”

“How much will it cost me?”

“Not much, it comes as a bundle.”

“Okay,” Nicole finally nodded. “But only if it’s not too expensive.”

“Of course. I’ll just get the white bundle. I’ll do it after the concert,” he said as he got up from his chair. He hurried up to his room, climbing two steps at a time.

*-*-*

Terry saw bright lights at a distance. They appeared to be dancing from one end to another on a stage. The stage was empty of people, only filled with musical instruments. A drum set lay in the center, flanked by an enormous piano on one side and a guitar resting on a rack. A microphone stood in front of the drum sets.

Terry tapped on the dial of his wristwatch, and it zoomed him to the stage. It now appeared larger. He was hovering in the air, looking down at the empty stage.

“Hi, Terry,” a melodious voice emanated from his right. He jerked his head. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Sandra, looking stunningly gorgeous with her dove eyes and oval face. Her lips shone with a sparkling lipstick. Flickering lights had coiled around her long neck. She wore a sleeveless, shiny top and black leather pants. A silver belt wound around her tiny waist.

“H—hi,” Terry stammered.

“Am I late?”

“No, not at all. I just got here,” he lied. He had arrived fifteen minutes ago, at 7:40 P.M. But since it was a virtual concert he was attending; he didn’t have to worry about spending time to find his seats. He just wanted to ensure that he arrived earlier than her. 

He looked around. There were thousands of pods hovering in the air, waiting patiently, while others were still arriving, materializing in empty spots. Terry’s was a small pod that accommodated two, whereas there were larger pods that had more occupants. Since he and Sandra had the same pod number, she had morphed right before the show started.

Suddenly, the dancing lights were turned off and a sharp beam of blue light focused on the microphone. Smoke started to lazily whiff through air. The buzz around the pods ceased, and they all turned dark. The gray steel at the bottom-half turned from opaque to translucent and finally to a transparent glass.

The smoke on the stage swirled rapidly now, forming a funnel, changing its hue from blue to green to purple. A thumping beat of a rhythmic drum reverberated through the air. The feet in the pods stared to stomp in anticipation and the hands clapped in unison, following the beat. The smoke-funnel widened at the base and started to spin rapidly. The beat intensified, and suddenly, the funnel split into four separate funnels. Each of them were now spinning over the four spots where the musicians would be: one on guitar, one on the piano, one on the drum set and one on the microphone. Suddenly, there was an enormous bang accompanied with a blinding flash of light. When the lights subsided and the smoke disappeared, there were four silhouettes occupying the place where the funnel was. A roar of applause, cheers, and whistles thundered through the arena.

“That was awesome!” Sandra exclaimed gleefully as she grabbed Terry’s arm and squeezed it gently. Terry’s heart leapt with joy, aware of her touch.

“Yeah,” he nodded enthusiastically, yet afraid to clap as it would mean that Sandra would let go of his arm. Although the experience was virtual, it felt real.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” the lead singer said. Her voice echoed all over the stadium. It also boomed from the speakers mounted in each pod. A giant screen behind the drummer showed the singer’s face. She was a beautiful singer in her twenties with a sharp nose with a nose-ring and thin lips. Her sharp faeatures glistened in the warm night and her blond, wavy hair fluttered lazily with a gush of air.

“My first song is my latest creation,” she breathed, “I’m sure you’ll recognize it.” She turned around to face the drummer. “A one, a two, a one and a two,” she clapped her hand and bobbed her head. The drummer started to beat the sticks, the guitarist started to strum the strings, the pianist started to run his fingers on the keyboard and the singer started to croon. Once again, the crowd went wild as they immediately recognized the song. They sang along with the singer.

As the night progressed, the band sang one hit after another. After a few songs, the band broke for the interval.

“I’ll be back,” Sandra said as she evaporated. Terry looked around the empty pod for a while, and he too decided to take a bathroom break. He tapped on his wrist and the scene in front of him melted away, to be replaced by the poster in his room. He took off his helmet and tossed it on his bed before heading towards the bathroom. When he was done, he hurried down to get himself some water.

“Done already?” Nicole looked up from the laptop screen she was looking at. She was sitting at the dining table.

“No,” Terry shook his head, “intermission.”

“Oh, okay. How’s the show so far?”

“Fabulous,” he replied as he hurried upstairs. In his room, he wore the helmet again, and he was transported once more to the concert. Sandra was already there.

“Where did you go?”

“Nowhere, just wanted some water.”

“Oh.”

The stage turned dark once again. It was time for the show to start. The performers once again materialized from thin air.

“We’re back, ladies and gentlemen, all the way from the United Kingdom. And to prove that this is not a recording, we will take requests now. What do you want us to sing?”

“Spirit of California!” the crowd shouted. It was their most popular song.

“Okay,” the lead singer nodded to the other band members. Soon, they all sang Spirit of California and the crowd went wild. Both, Sandra and Terry were singing along too. Every once in a while, she would turn to Terry and smile, and every time she did that, his heart would skip a beat. This is the best day in my life, he thought.

“This is the last song,” the singer said as the concert winded down. “Noo,” the crowd protested. The chants of ‘more, more’ could be heard from several pods.

“I wish we could stay longer, but it’s the middle of night where we are. And I’m sure there are many who are from parts of the world where it is early morning or in the middle of the day.”

When the show ended, brief flashes emanated from several pods, indicating the occupants leaving. Sandra turned to Terry and smiled, “Thank you. It was the best concert I’ve attended. We should do it again.” She leaned forward and kissed Terry on his cheek.

“Good night,” she whispered, “see you tomorrow.”

Before Terry could reply, her imaged disappeared. Terry stood there dumbfounded. He smiled as he caressed his cheek. Even though the kiss was not real, it felt as if it was. A tingling sensation warmed his body when he thought about seeing her in person tomorrow.


About the author

Aithal resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. view profile

Published on September 22, 2020

50000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by